Out of all the different things that people want to get right over the course of their everyday lives, matters relating to good health and fitness are among some of the most pressing.
Every year, millions of people around the world make New Year’s resolutions that involve things like getting down to the gym and finally reaching a particular target weight, or adopting a dietary regimen that promises enhanced energy and freedom from various negative health conditions.
Frequently, however, the emphasis is put on particular health and fitness goals, rather than on enduring lifestyle changes. While prescription weight loss treatments and procedures do exist for acute results, however, there are some real reasons why you should focus primarily on lifestyle changes rather than particular targets, unless you’ve been advised by a doctor that there’s a particular medical need.
Here are some reasons why you should focus on lifestyle changes rather than specific goals, when it comes to your health and fitness.
Because health and fitness can only be achieved and maintained over a prolonged period of time
The idea of having a particular goal that you are trying to achieve, automatically tends to generate a certain degree of impatience and frustration.
After all, setting yourself a goal and pursuing it fervently essentially means not being content or satisfied with the way things currently are, but only with a potential future outcome that isn’t yet within reach.
One big issue with this approach, when it comes to health and fitness, is that good health and fitness are not the kind of things that can be achieved through a sudden burst of effort, or over a short time span.
Even if you get into good shape quite quickly and feel much more energised because of cleaning up your diet, You will not be able to maintain those positive benefits unless you are committed to a long-term process, as opposed to trying to rush “to the finish line.”
Since health and fitness can only really be achieved and maintained over a prolonged period of time, it’s best to focus on the everyday routines and practices that lead you in the right direction, and help you to achieve the desired state of being.
For one thing, you can always feel content and centred in the present moment when adhering to certain lifestyle practices, without constantly checking your progress against an arbitrary target you have established, and feeling perpetually frustrated until you’ve “made it.”
Because if you meet a health and fitness goal in an unsustainable way, you will almost certainly revert soon after
Famously, the majority of overweight people who lose a significant amount of weight by following a diet, end up regaining all of the weight they lost – and often some more as well – within a period of about three years.
There are various different reasons why this might be the case, including factors like the health of the gut microbiome, and metabolic changes that come about as a result of prolonged calorie restriction.
Most commonly, however, the primary cause for this seems to be the fact that people who lose weight through highly restrictive and unsustainable diets and exercise practices revert to their original diets or lifestyles once they have reached their “target weight.”
As you can see, a key part of the issue here is – once again – viewing the health and fitness journey primarily in terms of hitting certain milestones and goals, and then “relaxing.”
Ultimately, if you meet a health and fitness goal in a generally unsustainable way, it’s very unlikely that you will sustain it in the medium to long term.
By focusing on changing your lifestyle so that you can sustainably eat, exercise, and interact with your surroundings in a way that promotes good health and fitness outcomes, you can make changes that are actually sustainable, without constantly feeling deprived and looking for the next opportunity to “get back to normal.”
Because the more habitual and automatic you can make a process, the likelier it is to transform your life
From time to time, we will all be faced by individual decisions and moments in time that can absolutely and permanently transform our lives for the better, or for the worse.
Most of the time, however, it will be our regular habits and patterns of behaviour that end up shaping the course of our lives in the most significant way, due to the cumulative effect of repeating a given behaviour over and over again, day in and day out.
This is true for both good habits and bad ones. Anyone who smokes a single cigarette is unlikely to suffer major health complications right away. But if they smoke another one, and another one, and another one, and keep that habit going for years, a host of devastating health consequences are extremely likely.
On the other hand, someone who habitually eats a healthy diet, practices time restricted eating, gets plenty of sleep each night, and remains physically active, can expect tremendous cumulative health benefits over time, even if it’s difficult to notice much difference from any one day to the next.
Put simply, the more habitual and automatic you can make a given process, the likelier it is to transform your life.
So, make sure that your lifestyle habits are good and empowering, when it comes to health and fitness.
Because a lot of the stress associated with health and fitness routines has to do with being chronically goal obsessed
Health and fitness practices tend to have a bit of a bad rap, and are associated with pain, suffering, a sense of deprivation, “feeling the burn,” and so on.
To a significant degree, however, a lot of the stress that is associated with health and fitness routines really has more to do with being chronically goal obsessed, and trying to rush to a desired outcome as quickly as possible – while simultaneously feeling deprived and insufficient until that goal has been achieved.
It’s entirely possible to eat in a way that aids health without making you miserable. And you can certainly get in good shape and learn to love the process of exercising, without dreading each workout and viewing it as a punishment you have to inflict on yourself.
If you can focus primarily on the health and fitness routines themselves, and make them fit comfortably into your life without the goal obsession, you’re likely to feel a lot better.
Because in times of stress, you will tend to default to your usual lifestyle habits
One of the great reasons to focus on getting good health and fitness habits embedded in your day-to-day lifestyle, is because this will help to make you more resilient in times of stress, with regards to staying healthy and in shape.
Life always contains a certain amount of stress and difficulty – and during tough moments, we all tend to default to our usual familiar lifestyle habits, rather than consistently undertaking practices that we find additionally stressful.
If you’re used to doing an early morning jog before starting your day, and it’s such a fundamental part of your routine that you feel uncomfortable if you don’t do it, you are likely to continue to do it when going through a stressful period.
On the other hand, if you are already highly resistant to the idea of getting down to the gym, it is quite unlikely that you will feel motivated to keep your gym sessions up when dealing with drama in your personal life.